By Justice Hub
A popular critique against international tribunals like the International Criminal Court (ICC) is that justice is best served locally
. Indeed, one of the fundamental principles on which the ICC is based is the notion of 'complementarity.' This means that the ICC should only investigate and prosecute crimes like war crimes when national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to genuinely do so.
Uganda is one of the few countries that have set up local mechanisms for trying war crimes. Ugandan Judge Flavia Senoga Anglin recently spoke to a rapt Hague Talks audience
about the tragic events that led her country to establish the International Crimes Division of Uganda.
“The division was set up in 2008. The story behind the setting up of the division is a very sad one. From 1987, for 20 years the Northern part of Uganda and some Eastern parts were beset by a war which was known as the Kony War,” she said.
“Joseph Kony was the leader of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) which fought a war in Northern Uganda for all those years. People were displaced from their homes. Children were separated from their parents and some of them up to this day don’t even know in which place they were born. Girls and women were raped. The boys were forced to join the rebels and become fighters,” said Judge Senoga who made history in Uganda as the first woman Chief Registrar.
Judge Senoga also spoke to the Hague Talks audience about the plight of the child soldiers who fought in the war and why a majority of Ugandans backed the move to set up the International Crimes Division:
"They (child soldiers) were forced to commit crimes that normally they would not commit. Because they were put at gunpoint, some of them were even forced to kill their own families,” said Judge Senoga.
“The government of Uganda decided to set up a court to try the perpetrators that could be identified by the victims of the war. Peace is not just an end to war. People if they are not punished for the wrongs that they have done they will never learn,” explained the judge.
“Justice demands that people should be punished for their wrongs and those who have done right should be rewarded,” she said.
One of the advantages of domestic courts is that they have a deep understanding of the local context and can adapt themselves to best deliver their mandate. Judge Senoga gave a perfect illustration of this in her talk:
“The court sits in Kampala but still they [the judges] can go out to places because not all the victims may be able to come to Kampala. It is much easier to facilitate to court members to and sit in those areas so that they can hear what the victims and other witnesses have to say.”
To hear Judge Senoga’s talk in full, watch the video below. You are sure to learn something because we certainly did.